Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: Final Thoughts: Eternal Beauty in Stone

Final Thoughts: Eternal Beauty in Stone is the debut book by photographer, John Thomas Grant. It is packed with 156 pages of high quality, beautiful color images taken in the historical cemeteries of the northeastern United States. Make no mistake, this book is not a documentary or historical transcription but rather a journey into the past which reminds us, in stunning photography, that those who passed before us were as vibrantly alive as we are now.

Using both color and black and white photography, Grant's purpose is to leave the reader unencumbered with text so that they can explore the stirring images for themselves. Only epitaphs from gravestones serve to enhance to visual messages from the photographs. Instead of sadness, many of the photographs declare a triumph of the continuance of life and memory.

As a genealogist and gravestone photographer myself, I was intrigued to know which cemeteries were the backdrop of his photographs. The images in the book are free from micro details such as these but I was pleased to discover an index in the back which satisfied my curiosity. For those that are inspired by his work, Grant also provides an appendix with further information about gravestone studies.

In the forward to Final Thoughts Douglas Keister writes,

"I'm a documentary photographer. I take good accurate photos; sometimes I even take a great picture....John Grant goes one more step.  Grant takes what he sees with his eyes and feels with heart and soul and somehow magically extracts the essence of his subject and makes a picture."

I couldn't agree more. Most genealogists, taphophiles, historians and others with interest in old gravestones are bent on documentation and preservation. John Grant uses the camera's lens to transform stone memorials to life. His photos are evocative, poignant, emotional and inspiring.

In this book, the combination of artistic creation, material culture, history, cultural landscape and natural wonder mesh to form a vibrant expression of color and beauty. Anyone with an appreciation for history in its natural environment will enjoy this unique expression that links the past to the present. It's success lies in capturing our truest feelings at perhaps the most vulnerable transition in every person's life. A work of inspiring art, Final Thoughts is the touching visual expression of history and genealogy brought to life.

Get to know author and photographer John Thomas Grant better by reading my interview with him.

Author: John Thomas Grant
Title: Final Thoughts: Eternal Beauty in Stone
160 pages with illustrations; index; appendix; color
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7643-3910-3
Available From: and other book sellers including
Cost: Hardcover $34.99

Photos courtesy of John Thomas Grant


  1. Marian,

    Thank you for writing this. I am not a writer, but I do have this Awesome book. I have also met John at a Cemetery, with the lovely Lisa.

    His eye for what many take for granted comes alive through his pictures, especially his book.

    It goes far beyond my wanting to capture a readable picture of a headstone. John, to me, is an artist, who uses his photography skills to bring these stones to life.

    Thank you Marian.


  2. I hope to be able to purchase John's book soon. His photography is absolutely stunning and I always look forward to what new pictures he will post on Facebook.

  3. Marian, what a wonderfully written review of John's book. We have so many talented photographers and writers in our circles.